White Water Rapid Classification System
The American version of the white water classification system includes six categories. These are the definitions of each class according to American Whitewater:
CLASS I RAPIDS
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves.
CLASS II RAPIDS: NOVICE
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels that are evident without scouting.
CLASS III: INTERMEDIATE
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves . . . Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required.
CLASS IV: ADVANCED
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water.
CLASS V: EXPERT
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk.
CLASS VI: EXTREME AND EXPLORATORY RAPIDS
These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability, and danger.
It’s important to note that the classification of any river can change based on the volume of water moving downstream at any given time. During the spring and early summer, higher flows can be expected. During the late summer and early fall, rafters will generally be floating in slower currents.
Animas River Rapids
The Animas River is divided into sections that range from Class, I – Class V+. The Class IV through V+ sections are located in the mountains near Tacoma. The only way to access these rapids is by taking the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Rockwood and hiking to Canyon Creek.
As the river winds out of the mountains, it drops to Classes I – III. North of town (at Hermosa) the river drops to a Class I. As the river enters Durango, it moves to a Class II, culminating in Class III at Smelter Rapid (at Santa Rita Park). Generally speaking, the river remains Class II – III until it reaches its confluence with the San Juan River in Farmington, New Mexico.
If you are thinking about taking a commercial rafting trip, your guides will closely monitor water levels to ensure that you run the safest and most fun river sections based on current flows. For personal boaters, we recommend that you stop by Durango’s local outdoor recreation stores to get up-to-date beta on river conditions before taking the plunge.
Either way, we look forward to seeing you on the water!